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Core Acting classes are designed to prepare our students for being on camera as quickly as possible. Many acting schools spend weeks, months, even years on theater games and exercises before they give their students actual scenes to work on. At SOCAPA, we instead choose to prepare you immediately for the films you perform in during the program and the auditions you go to once you graduate. Casting directors give you scenes at auditions and filmmakers give you scenes in their films; our focus, then, is on scene preparation. This is not to say that we do not teach you exercises and tools to draw upon, but rather that these exercises and tools are always taught within the context of preparing for a scene.
In addition to acting in student films, acting students will have intensive technique classes taught by professional actors. Students will have the opportunity to work in groups as well as one-on-one training sessions with their teachers.
The Core Acting course begins by introducing basic acting exercises that foster psycho-physical awareness of the basic grounds of acting involved in scene work: such as active imagination, “as if,” immediacy/partnering, presence, breath, and kinesthetic awareness, among others. Many instructors will use Meisner repetitions for this purpose, although their are many approaches that may be utilized. Physical and vocal warm-ups will be employed most mornings, incorporating fun or instructive games that vary day to day.
These principles will be further explored through Improvisational Scene Studies, Given Circumstances Assignments, Text Analysis, and Table Work
At SOCAPA we create an environment where students feel safe to explore and grow without judgment or gossip. Safe space means that any activity or work done in class stays in class. A lot of things we do in acting class may be abstract, partly because they are steps in a long, evolving process: learning to be an actor. If actors have to worry about “looking silly” or “what others are say during lunch,” they are unable to fully commit to the exercises and let their creativity reach its full potential. This is why we protect each student’s work and their own creative space by committing students to a “safe space” company agreement. Students are asked to not talk about another student’s work or process outside of the classroom.
Actors are cast in student films by the SOCAPA acting and film faculty. Lead and supporting roles are distributed evenly to ensure each student has ample time on camera. Actors receive their script and character descriptions the night prior to shooting at the evening filmmaker / actor production meeting. Actors are asked to review their script that evening but memorization of all lines is not be expected.
Providing students a professional experience working in their craft is a core foundation of all SOCAPA programing. We take set etiquette and professionalism seriously. Both SOCAPA filmmakers and actors are asked to be on time, remain focused to the task, follow instructions, respect locations and persons, and respect the work of their fellow artists. A SOCAPA film teaching assistant accompanies each film to ensure a safe and successful shoot day.
Making a film is a lot of work, but also a lot of fun! Students travel all over the city or campus grabbing shots and performing scenes. Some scenes may be scripted while others may be left to the actor's improvisational techniques. As the story comes to life, filmmakers and actors learn the importance of creative collaboration between filmmaker and actor - an experience that informs their work in their own craft moving forward.
After each shoot day the acting ensemble holds a Post-Shoot Debrief to share experiences and indicate what principles of technique they were able to apply on set.
Every Friday night the student films will be screened for the whole camp at our weekly showcase. The actors will have the opportunity to see themselves appear on the silver screen, often for the first time.
Every evening, Monday through Friday, we plan an activity for the students, whether it be a barbecue on campus, a dinner in the city, a cool-off swim, a theater/musical performance, or a film screening. On the Saturday afternoons that are not devoted to shooting and performing, we organize a group excursion. This could include a trip to a museum, the beach or a show in the city. Past evening and Saturday excursions have included trips to Coney Island Amusement Park, live tapings of MTV's TRL, outdoor concerts (The Roots, OCMS, TV on the Radio, etc.), Universal Studios, Pilobolus Dance Group at the Joyce, Disco Bowling, Broadway Shows such as Spring Awakening, Hair, Rent and Avenue Q, Six Flags Amusement Park, Fourth of July Fireworks, Bryant Park Film Screenings, and off-Broadway hits such as Fuerza Bruta and Stomp, to name a few.
At least once per session, SOCAPA invites a top industry professional from the New York or Hollywood film or performing arts scene to come to campus and lead a master class for all students, regardless of focus. Some past guests include Academy Award-Winning actress Melissa Leo (The Fighter, Frozen River, 21 Grams), writer/director John Hamburg (I Love You Man, Along Came Polly, Safe Men, Zoolander, Meet the Fockers, Little Fockers), actor Luis Guzman (Traffic, Boogie Nights, Punch Drunk Love, Carlito's Way, Anger Management), writer Hawk Ostby (Iron Man, Children of Men, Cowboys and Aliens), actor Brendan Sexton III (Empire Records, Welcome to the Dollhouse), the four lead characters from American Teen, filmmaker Peter Sollett (Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist, Raising Victor Vargas), actor Sarah Clarke (TV show 24, Thirteen) screenwriter Andrew Marlowe (Air Force One, End of Days, Hollow Man), director Morgan J. Freeman (Hurricane Streets), comedian Matt Walsh (The Daily Show, Bad Santa, Upright Citizens Brigade), and the cast of Hair and Spring Awakening on Broadway.
In a single shot of up to two minutes, students tell a simple story with a clear beginning, middle, and end. The project takes its name from the first films by the 19th-century pioneers of early cinema, Pierre and August Lumière. The focus, here, is on mise-en-scène, an essential concept in the art of filmmaking. Students are challenged to carefully arrange all the elements that appear within the shot itself - camera movement, composition, blocking of actors, props, and lighting - to most effectively and creatively tell their stories.
Edwin Porter was one of the first filmmakers to consider the possibilities of editing shots together in a continuous fashion. He led the way in creating the illusion of "continuity," where material shot over the course of days or weeks looks, once it is cut together in sequence, as if it all flows together over the course of minutes. His famous film, The Great Train Robbery, is the inspiration for this second film, where students explore the same issues Porter faced, and make a 3-4 minute film that focuses on continuity. Students have four hours to shoot this film and one day to edit.
Perhaps the greatest and most innovative filmmaker that America has produced, Stanley Kubrick made one masterpiece after another over his five decade career. He set the standard for cinematic excellence in a multitude of genres, combining staging, lighting, set design, acting, and editing to create a radical new vision of what film can do. With films such as "2001: A Space Odyssey," "Dr. Strangelove," "Barry Lyndon," "Lolita," "The Shining," and "Full Metal Jacket," Kubrick proved himself again and again to be a master of his craft. For their third film, a 4-5 minute project, we challenge SOCAPA students to take everything they have learned in the previous weeks and to forge their own masterpiece. Students have a full day to shoot this film and two days to edit.
Headshots are like an actor's calling card - every actor needs a good headshot. So, at SOCAPA every two and three week acting student is scheduled a block of time in the studio to have their headshots done by students in the SOCAPA Photography Program.
An actor without a scene or a monologue is like a photographer without a camera. At auditions, casting directors will often ask actors to perform a prepared scene of the actor’s choosing. A prepared actor will have an arsenal to choose from. With this in mind, SOCAPA has each acting student select a scene or monologue from our library of favorites. Scripts are memorized and rehearsed during the week and are performed live on the last day of the program.
Each three-week SOCAPA acting student will be directed by one of their instructors in a scene of their choosing. This culmination scene will be professionally filmed and edited by a SOCAPA directing instructor and will be shown at the Showcase Festival at the end of the three-week program. The culmination scene can serve as a professional centerpiece around which a student can build an acting reel - a short collection of work showcasing their talent for college applications or auditions.
"SOCAPA was such an incredible experience. It really opened up my eyes to what the acting world is like. SOCAPA is a very educational and fun program to be a part of! Hopefully I will be back again next summer."
Lauren S., Pennsylvania, USA
SOCAPA is launching a new acting program in New York this summer!